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The art market: New women and the Red Guard

. Georgina Adam
Chinese contemporary art is little represented in US museums, but a significant step was taken last year when the Museum of Modern Art in New York acquired 28 photographs by 11 contemporary Chinese artists. They included work by Ai Weiwei, Rong Rong and Huang Yan, and were bought from the US collector and publisher Larry Warsh. Now Warsh, whose 700-strong holding also includes painting and sculpture, has sold nine works by two Chinese photographers to the Getty Museum in California. He values the group at $100,000 but gave the museum, he says, “a healthy discount”. It is the Getty’s first big acquisition in this field. The works are by Wang Qingsong and Hai Bo, and include Hai Bo’s “I am Chairman Mao’s Red Guard” (2000), showing the same person now and when she was a young militant, and Wang Qingsong’s dolled-up “New Women” (2000, pictured). “The Getty has one of the largest collections of photography in the world, and it is important for it to add Chinese contemporary photography to its holdings,” says Warsh. “It is the start of a new era for the museum, and with the large Asian-American community in California, the acquisition also enables [the museum] to connect with this audience.” The cultural ambitions of the United Arab Emirates seem to know no bounds. Abu Dhabi, the dominant emirate in the federation, has already launched an audacious plan to put four massive new museums on the currently uninhabited Saadiyat Island. Now ADACH (Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage), is planning yet another museum – this one devoted to Middle Eastern, North African and Asian art – right in the middle of Abu Dhabi itself. The 4,000sq m exhibition space will be the kingpin in a cultural centre that will include three theatres and as well as art galleries. And for the first time, ADACH is hosting a pavilion at the Venice Biennale this June, with the leading French curator Catherine David as artistic director. All this, of course, has art dealers hopeful that the Middle East will compensate for credit-crisis-hit art sales in the west, even if buying has not yet started for most of the museums. Yves St Laurent, Versace ... and now Kenzo. The Japanese fashion designer, 70, has decided to “lighten up his life” and move from a Japanese-style villa in eastern Paris to a smaller apartment. Going under the hammer on June 16 & 17 is a huge and eclectic trove of things he has collected over 20 years. Among almost 1,500 lots in the sale are Khmer sculptures, a rare Burmese Buddha, Chinese antiquities including a Han wooden horse (€80,000-€100,000) and Tang-dynasty head of a court lady (pictured right), Japanese lacquerware, kimonos, ceramics and screens, American Indian artefacts and tribal art. Many of the items are priced at just a few hundred euros and the whole sale, at the French auction house Aguttes, is expected to make €1.5m-€2m. The sale of two very rare carpets by Francis Bacon, due to be auctioned in a provincial saleroom last month, has been cancelled; they were suddenly taken back by the consignor, an Iranian rug dealer. Their appearance had triggered widespread interest, as they date from Bacon’s early and brief career as an interior designer, and may be the only survivors of the first exhibition of his creations in 1929. “We had estimated them at £50,000-£80,000 but I thought they would probably have made much, much more,” says Ian Bennett, carpet specialist at the Netherhampton Auction Centre, Wiltshire, where they were sent for sale. “Then two days before the date the owner just pulled them.” The hand-tufted rugs were signed with a bold “Francis Bacon” in capital letters, and had been sent for sale along with a group of Oriental rugs. “When I told the owner who they were by, she said ‘Who’s Francis Bacon, darling?’” says Bennett, adding that without the famous name they would be worth “about a hundred pounds each”. Clarification: in last week’s column, a statement by Chris Marinello, executive director of the Art Loss Register (ALR), appeared out of context. Marinello said that seized Cuban art cases can be likened to Holocaust looted art cases, not that the situation in Cuba was like the Holocaust. Marinello also announced a conference to be held this winter during Art Basel Miami Beach, to examine the issue of confiscated art. The conference will bring together art dealers, Cuban community members and local politicians. Marinello said he wanted to “encourage claimants to come forward”.